Cosatu intervenes to end E Cape teachers' go-slow
Cosatu this week mediated between disgruntled teachers and the Eastern Cape education department in a bid to end the go-slow at schools over poor working conditions.
There is deep dissatisfaction among teachers in the province—which achieved a 58.1% matric pass rate in 2011, the lowest in the country—over redeployment to other schools, the dismissal of temporary teachers and a lack of resources in schools.
Meanwhile, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in the Eastern Cape and the provincial department of education were heading to court on Friday to argue whether the department’s decision on how many teachers’ posts it would fund next year should be set aside.
This week, more than 1 000 Sadtu-affiliated teachers embarked on a go-slow, leaving school early to attend meetings to discuss poor working conditions.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi met premier Noxolo Kiviet and Sadtu leaders as well as the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union and the South African State and Allied Workers’ Union to discuss these problems.
The meeting resolved that “smaller meetings to discuss the details” would be held, according to Sadtu deputy secretary general Nkosana Dolopi.
“We are going to communicate with our members that the department has committed to engaging on these issues,” he told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday.
“We will encourage our members to give talking a chance but we are not sure how they will respond.”
Sadtu represents about 53 000 teachers in the province.
Sadtu’s deputy provincial secretary, Nolitha Mboniswa, said the province welcomed the intervention by Cosatu but found plans for more meetings “frustrating”.
“We need an urgent approach,” she said.
She said the union would “intensify engagements” but would not say if this meant more go-slows.
She said for “many years” teachers would return to classrooms at the beginning of the year to find that temporary teachers’ contracts had not been renewed because the department had not budgeted for them. This has left gaps in the system.
Teachers were also moved from schools during the process of redeployment without the department “considering the needs of the school”.
This resulted in teachers “doing work not belonging to them”.
Many teachers also worked in dilapidated buildings, with poor toilet facilities, no libraries, and a shortage of desks, chairs and textbooks.
Sadtu in the Eastern Cape was also demanding the removal of department head Modidima Mannya, who they have consistently blamed for the crises in the department.
Pressure on teachers
Peter Duminy, chief executive officer of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) in the Eastern Cape—a union not aligned with Cosatu—said he would not comment on what other unions were doing.
He was, however, concerned with how the redeployment of teachers is carried out by the department. “The manner in which the teacher is identified [for redeployment to another school] does not follow fair labour practice,” he told the M&G, adding that the union was engaging with the department on this.
He said teachers who did not participate in the go-slow felt the pressure of extra work.
“Commonsense tells us that if some teachers are not working all the hours they are supposed to be working, this puts pressure on the teachers who are working the full hours they are employed to work.”
Naptosa represents more than 11 000 teachers in the province.
Duminy also condemned the slowness of the appointment of temporary teachers, saying, “there are just not enough teachers in classrooms”.
‘Vacancies must be filled’
Another union leader deploring the vacancies left by the dismissal of temporary teachers is Chris Kloppers, chief executive officer of the South African Onderwysers Unie (SAOU), which is also not aligned with Cosatu.
“We can understand the frustration Sadtu is feeling. Since schools opened this year some classes have sat without teachers ... the vacancies must be filled.”
SAOU represents about 3 000 teachers in the province.
He said the union welcomed Cosatu’s intervention as any help in stabilising the system was appreciated, but added that the solutions “lie in the hands of the department”.
Last year the department faced the wrath of unions who took it to court to get more than 4 000 temporary teachers—whose contracts were terminated in 2010—reinstated.
Spokesperson for the department Loyiso Pulumani also welcomed Cosatu’s intervention, but lamented the “non-cooperation and bickering” by Sadtu which, he said, was not helping the process of redeployment and the placement of temporary teachers.
Despite this, about 1 800 temporary teachers had already been placed in schools this year.
“Sadtu tells its members not to follow redeployment orders,” he said.
He said there are about 8 000 teacher vacancies in the province but that about 6 000 teachers had been identified as being “in excess” who could be moved to schools where there are vacancies.
“So we estimate that there are actually about 2 000 vacancies in the system.”
In March last year the national department invoked section 100 of the Constitution and put the crisis-ridden provincial education department under administration.
Late last year Sadtu lodged a court application at the Bhisho High court to get the post-provisioning for 2012 set aside.
At issue are 64 752 teachers the Eastern Cape education department has budgeted for in 2012, which Sadtu says is far too low.
The basis of Sadtu’s case is that the provincial education minister did not follow correct processes and did not consult with unions in deciding on the number of posts for this year.
Michael Randell, Sadtu’s lawyer, said the union’s position is that post establishment must not go ahead because the head of the department and the provincial minister were “precluded from deciding on post establishment because section 100 was invoked and the national department took over the decision making”.
He said the provincial department contends that the intervention by the national department in terms of section 100 “can simply be ignored because it is flawed”.
The national department’s intervention was flawed because it does not stipulate who performs which roles, said Randell.
“They are saying it makes the agreement null and void and so they can actually make decisions about post-establishment,” said Randell.
He said he had not seen “hide nor hair of the national department in this” despite the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, and director general, Bobby Soobrayan, in their official capacities, being cited as third and fourth respondents.
“The national department have not opposed the matter and not filed any papers.”